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Industry News

ElectriCities Upset by State Lawmaker’s Opinion on Debt

LCG, July 17, 2000--ElectriCities of North Carolina, an umbrella organization for 98 municipal utilities in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, took umbrage Friday with remarks by state Sen. Ronnie Smith of North Carolina, where it has 51 members.

Smith said he didnt think there ought to be a statewide surcharge on electric customers bills to pay off the $6 billion in strandable debt owed by the municipal utilities because that would mean customers of the states investor-owned utilities would be paying extra to help out customers of public power agencies who have long enjoyed the benefits of having a municipal utility.

Smith didnt stop there. He also said a lot of municipal utilities earned over the years more income from power than they really needed so they used the money for other civic purposes when they probably should have used it to pay off their debt.

ElectriCities said, or rather shouted, "There is absolutely NO truth to this allegation." (The capital letters belong to ElectriCities, which also has an extra one in the middle of its name.) The organization said the power agencies "have made every debt payment since its first bonds were issued more than 20 years ago on a timely basis. In addition, each city has made every monthly payment required since their power supply contracts were signed," which is almost what Smith was talking about.

ElectriCities admitted that maybe some transfers of distribution income were made to the general funds of the cities, but that has almost stopped and last year such transfers by the 51 cities only came to $21 million.

The issue is pretty important to ElectriCities and its members. Smith is co-chairman of the North Carolina Legislatures Study Commission on the Future of Electric Service in the state.

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